At a noontime media briefing Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said people living in Hurricane Laura’s path have only about five more hours to evacuate to safety. He said he has received reports from county judges in southeast Texas where Laura is expected to hit about people not wanting to leave. Those who choose to stay will find themselves unable to get out and help unavailable.
“It is important for people to know that from about 7 p.m. tonight until about 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, it will be a little bit of a lockdown period for the ability of rescuers and aiders to get in and provide support for anybody in the local regions. So, we urge everybody that may be in harm’s way to take these few last hours to get out of harm’s way,” said Abbott.
The governor said the reality is that you will be left on your own if you choose to ride the storm out at home.
Laura is predicted to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, maybe a Category 5, with “unsurvivable,” storm surge of up to 20 feet, and extending inland as far as 30 miles. Jefferson and Orange counties can expect tropical storm force winds starting at about 8 this evening with the eye of the storm and the strongest winds expected to pass during the night.
With Laura shifting to the east, residents in the Houston metropolitan area are breathing a sigh of relief, but the area can still expect high winds and heavy rains through Thursday.
Power outages are expected in storm-hit areas and could last for weeks, Abbott said. If you lose power and plan to use a generator, the device must be left outside the home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
As many as a half million people have evacuated coastal areas for points north.
There have been reports of Austin running out of hotel rooms to house the evacuees. Texas Emergency Management Division Chief Nim Kidd said the state is working with the city of Austin to stabilize the hotel situation. He urged residents who came on their own rather than using the buses provided by the state to consider hotels in Hays, Williamson and Bell Counties.
Farther north, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is reported to be at just 30% hotel occupancy right now.
Once the storm passes, recovery efforts and damage assessment will begin. Abbott said teams are already being mobilized. A total of 62 counties are now included in the state’s disaster declaration. Early estimates peg damage from Laura at $25 billion to $30 billion.
The state has launched an online platform for anyone needing information about evacuation orders, shelters or hurricane preparations.